A Favorite Queen: Queen Anne

Queen Anne by Sir Godfrey Kneller

Around 1690, Sir Godfrey Kneller painted the portrait of Queen Anne of England, Scotland, and Ireland, which during her reign these nations would become the United Kingdom. This portrait is 92 inches by 56 1/4 and is oil on canvas. Sir Godfrey was German born and a Dutch trained painter. In 1676, Kneller traveled to England to see Van Dyck’s works who dominated English art for more than 30 years. He became principal painter to the King–William III of William and Mary and the Glorious Revolution. This portrait of Queen Anne was not his first portrait of this Stuart Queen. His other works date circa 1686 portraits. This portrait can be seen in the Primary Collection at the National Portrait Gallery in London. That is after the coronavirus pandemic ends.

On February 6 1665 at St. James’s Palace, Anne was born to her mother Anne Hyde and her father, James, heir presumptive to Charles II. She was the second daughter. On 6 February 1685, James, the Duke of York, became King of England, Scotland and Ireland but in 1688, the Glorious Revolution happened and James was deposed. His eldest daughter, Mary, who was married to William III of Orange became the isle nation’s monarchs.

By this Anne was married to Prince George of Denmark who she wed in 1683. Since Mary and William did not have children, Anne was the heir apparent. Roughly a year later, Anne gave birth to her first child, a daughter who was stillborn. This would be the beginning of tragedy for the Stuart Queen. She was pregnant seventeen times in life. None of her children survived, either she miscarried, the child was stillborn or lived for a month or a couple of years. Only one child lived the longest–Prince William, Duke of Gloucester, died at eleven on July 30 1700Her last child–a stillborn–was born fourteen years before her death. A woman who never enjoyed great health these losses must have destroyed her body, heart and soul with each loss.

As a child, Anne was suffered an eye condition that caused excessive watering. She was sent to France for medical treatment. And her health never improved. She developed gout, which impaired her mobility so she was carried around on a sedan chair, and she grew obsese. Modern doctors speculated about possible causes for her health issues but certainly the pregnancy wrecked her body as well as the loss of her children. That must have ripped pieces of her.

Nevertheless, Queen Anne changed history. On March 8, 1702, Anne became Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland. She was crowned on 23 April 1702. In May of that year, England entered the War of Spanish Succession. But the most enduring act she had committed was the Acts of Union. Wales formed part of the English crown. Scotland was independent sovereign state. In 1707, the Acts of the Union was signed and these nations became known as the United Kingdom.

In October 1708, her husband died. Then in 1713, the queen lost the ability to walk. By March she was seriously ill and all awaited her. She still attended to her state duties but cancelled on in July 1714. She suffered a stroke on 30 July and died on 1 August 1714.

Anne was buried beside her husband and children in Henry VIII chapel in Westminster Abbey on 24 August 1714.

In the 1690s Queen’s Anne’s style of costume was at the height of fashion. Nothing less is expected of a monarch.

Anne has donned a mantua, a style that would exist at the height of fashion for more than fifty years in different variations. The woman’s overdress or gown was worn over an underskirt. The unboned bodice, loosely fitted, attached to the overskirt with a long train. The overskirt parted in the front to reveal the petticoat. This outfit was worn on social and formal occasions.

Let’s dissect her costume. The mantua is a gold pattern silk, bejeweled by pearls and a black stone, onyx perhaps or even black diamonds (She is queen after all) The train is lined in ermine, the royal fur.

Her body is tightly corseted and the gold silk is cut to fit precisely over the corset. It feels as if we have caught still dressing and the costume has a more relaxed feel to it. The deeply scooped neckline of the bodice seems to barely hang onto her shoulders and hanging from the arms is the scalloped sleeve with black, teardrop jewels on each scalloped edge and dotted with a pearl. The shape of the sleeve has an Roman quality to it as if Queen Anne is telling the world that the UK is the new empire, which it would transform into one day.

Beneath her bodice, she has a done a lace trimmed chemise. The lace probably Flanders lace peeks out from the bodice edge and hangs from the full, loose sleeves to drape to her forearm.

Anne would also have donned stocking and shoes which cannot be seen in the portrait. In this time period, her shoes would have been heeled and constructed of matching material. She would have spent the money on such a luxury.

And a luxury she could have enjoyed was to be dripping in jewels. Yet, she has no necklace, earrings, or rings. However, this time period, less jewelry was worn than before and the jewelry of choice was pearl.

Anne has pearls on. A pearl and black stone slash cuts across from her left shoulder to her waist. A rosette or brooch of black gems holds or simulates the holding of her long train draped about her lower body, which would dragged behind her and require servants to hold. Another Roman influence, perhaps. But on the pedestal, we can see a crown, golden and jeweled, just to remind people she is the monarch.

If Anne wanted to put on that crown, I think it would have been fitting for her hairstyle. The fashionable one of the era. Her dark hair is brushed back from her face and piled high on her head. The top would be curled and pinned and long curls draped over her shoulder, the fashion length.

Queen Anne was a fascinating woman with a tragic life. I hope this post and the fictional movie The Favorite and novel by the same name sparks your interest in this queen.

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